Cathy Hamilton: Spring ‘War of the Roses’ |

Cathy Hamilton: Spring ‘War of the Roses’

— Every spring, on the first warm weather weekend, my husband marches ceremoniously to the shed and emerges minutes later, grinning like a madman, pruning shears in hand.

I cower at the window and watch in horror while he approaches the rose bushes, blades gleaming in the sun.

The problem isn’t the pruning. The problem is the guy doesn’t know when to quit.

If you ask me, pruning should be prudent. Like Mr. Miyagi, fawning over his bonsai trees – a delicate snip here, a judicious pinch there.

Instead, my irrepressible, gung-ho housemate attacks his subjects with a vengeance – lopping, cropping, clipping and snipping in a frenzied flurry until the poor shrubs are mere shadows of their former selves.

I married Edward freaking Scissorhands!

Last year, I couldn’t take it anymore. I bolted outside in my robe and draped myself over my incredible shrinking Knock Out roses.

“You’re taking them down to the nubs!” I shrieked. “It will take years to grow back!”

“Nonsense,” he snorted, that maniacal Jack Nicholson look in his eye. “They’ll come back twice as big. They love this!” He clicked his clippers in the air for effect and hissed, “Heeeere’s Johnny!”

(For the record, the Knock Outs did come back bigger and better, but for a few weeks they looked like someone had mowed them down with a Lawn Boy.)

This year, Eddie Scissorhands has a new obsession: the front hedge.

For as long as I’ve known him, my husband has always had a thing for hedges. When driving through old, stately neighborhoods, he’d often pull to the curb and drool over a tall, neatly trimmed row of yews.

“Now, that’s a good-looking hedge,” he’d say. “Some day, we’ll have one of our own. I always wanted to have a hedge.”

“Yes, dear.” I’d reply. “You said that two blocks ago, when we stopped in front of the big Queen Anne. Remember those kids running to tell their mother? Did you really feel it necessary to caress the hedge?”

When the opportunity arose to relandscape our front entrance a few years back, he finally got his chance. Purchasing 33 boxwood bushes, he planted them 15 inches apart, watered them faithfully and willed them to spread.

Last week, my elated spouse determined they had grown together enough to warrant their first shaping. You’d have thought it was our son’s first trip to the barber shop. The occasion was that momentous.

He bounded to the shed and came out wielding a pair of shiny new hedge clippers. But this wasn’t a frenetic Ed Scissorhands crossing the yard. There was another look in his eye, a different posture. This was a serene yet focused Mr. Miyagi, approaching the hedge like an treasured heirloom tree.

For the next three hours, he patiently snipped and clipped, pinched and pared. It was backbreaking work; the hedge is only 12 inches high. He gave those 33 boxwoods a military-style flat top – stepping back to painstakingly check his work from all angles – and shaved the sides, front and back, in straight, even lines.

Then, he beckoned me outside for a second opinion.

“OK, look at the hedge and tell me if the Boxwood Number 7 is sticking out a little bit,” he asked.

This from a man who can go days before noticing I got a haircut.

“Looks fine to me,” I said.

“You’re not even looking! You’ve haven’t moved off the porch!”

“OK, OK!” I sighed, and gave the hedge a thorough 360-degree inspection. “You’re right. Number 7 seems to be protruding about a half-inch beyond the rest.”

“I knew it!” he cried, tightening his grip on the clippers. Was he losing his Zen-like cool?

I retreated to the house and watched through the window as Jekyll turned to Hyde. Miyagi was gone. “Heeere’s Scissorhands!”

With a growing furor, he switched those clippers into overdrive and trimmed the hedge down to size. Then, he turned his attention to the boxwoods by the pond, and the unsuspecting shrubs in the back. Two hours later, he came inside, clippers in hand, sweating and smiling deliriously.

“What else ya got?” he asked, curiously eyeing the top of my head. “I’m on a roll.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy my husband has found a hobby, and I’m grateful he’s willing to do yard work. But, I’ll tell you one thing. This spring, I’m wearing a helmet to bed.

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